In their own words: Charles Landery

September 6th, 2011

Catherine Zimney*, who lamented not having an astronomy professor aboard to name the stars for her, would appreciate today’s quotation. A star chart is a pretty satisfactory alternative. And it’s cheap and doesn’t eat much!

The pleasures of being becalmed became threadbare; there is a limit to untutored star gazing.

Charles Landery was an American who served in the Royal Navy in WWII wrote a number of books, including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1940), So What? A Young Man’s Odyssey (1940) and Whistling for a Wind (1952). The latter is an account of his post-war travels from England to Rhodes in the Greek Islands aboard his tramp sailor, Bessie.

*See the post “We’d be better prepared”.

E.E. Cummings

August 5th, 2011

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
It’s always our self we find in the sea.

American poet Edward Estlin Cummings (1894 – 1962) was more commonly known as e. e. cummings (think of k.d. lang today). As well as writing nearly 3,000 poems, Cummings was also an author, painter and playwright. At the time of his death, he was second to Robert Frost in popularity as a poet.

I keep returning to his couplet and thinking about the truth of his words.

Another Challenge

August 5th, 2011

Another Challenge, owned and skippered by Chris Lewin, has won the Sydney 38 division of the Sydney-Gold Coast yacht race. This is the yacht that Jessica Watson is taking in the Sydney-Hobart this year with a young crew and she was aboard for the experience.

They raced with a combined crew – some of Chris’s regulars and some of Jess’s team preparing for the Hobart. They finished one hour ahead of second-placed Wizzard but were penalised 10 minutes for missing one HF position report. We haven’t heard any reason for this.

The three other Sydney 38s finished within two hours of the winner, with Eleni being awarded two hours’ redress for standing by Wasabi, who lost its keel about three miles offshore.

Water-ballasted, Wasabi was able to stay afloat and was escorted in to Camden Haven.

Port and starboard and avoiding a collision

August 4th, 2011

Whether you’re out for a gentle afternoon cruise or racing in a highly competitive regatta, as skipper you need to keep track of all the other vessels approaching yours. And when racing, you probably won’t be able to do that adequately yourself. So you’ll need to appoint one or more lookouts, who relay to you information about the direction or angle of approach and distance off.

Ideally, the lookout is positioned with a clear view of boats approaching on starboard. But, if not, how long between looks?

In S80 Racy Lady’s case, it was too long. In a recent race run by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia she was on port and unaware of the approach of Vanguard, who was on starboard, two-sail reaching, until called by them.

But the rules say that both boats have a responsibility to avoid a collision.

Aboard Vanguard, lookouts had been posted on both sides of the yacht, but crew admitted that Racy Lady must have been in the blind spot, shielded by the genoa.

When called, Racy Lady didn’t have time to take evasive action. Her mast came down on impact and the yacht sank within five minutes of the collision, with crew able to grab only their wallets.

We’ve blogged before about maintaining a proper lookout but it’s worth re-reading.

Racing in strong wind

July 13th, 2011

Last Sunday competitors had gathered at the CYCA for the final race of the winter point score series. We were there for the pre-race breakfast with friends. 

As we’d driven over, the wind was quite strong and from the west. At the club we were glad to have brought our thickest coats and be sitting in the sun as the wind was cutting. Every now and then, a gust came through from the south-west and really rattled the halyards and flattened the flags. After each batch of gusts, the wind went north-west for a bit, before settling back into the steady westerly.

This caused a dilemma for the race organisers. No one wants to cancel a race, particularly the series decider. At the same time, the risk of injury to sailors and damage to the yachts had to be taken into account. While each yacht individually may have been able to handle the conditions, its ability could well be hampered in the midst of a large fleet.

Apart from the one-design Sydney 38 division, the race is a pursuit one, so you have boats of very different sizes, weights and hull shapes starting at the same time, rather than division by division. We had always enjoyed this series when we owned our Thunderbird because each boat you overtook made you closer to a win.

Anyway, on Sunday the start boat motored out to the open harbour to check and report on conditions there.

Of course, included in the Sailing Instructions for the series is the Racing Rules of Sailing Fundamental Rule 4:

The responsibility for a boat’s decision to participate in a race or to continue racing is hers alone.

But on Sunday the decision was made by club officials and the race was cancelled. The biggest gust recorded at Fort Denison was 43 knots from the west at 11.30 am – the exact time of the race start.

If you were cruising, you’d be unlikely to venture out in similar conditions. But the same rule should apply:

As skipper you are responsible for the safety of your vessel and the lives of your crew so it’s up to you to decide when to set sail, when to seek shelter and when to stay home.

“Never let up on your vigilance”

July 5th, 2011



OK, it’s far from perfect, but you get the message.

It’s winter now here in Sydney and that means that most sailors and boaters are spending time ashore. So it’s surprising how many drownings there have been recently in New South Wales. David Lockwood, boating columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald, noted last Saturday that at least seven boaters, aged 14 to 80 have drowned in the last month.

Henry Adam, aka 'Arry Driftwood

Henry Adam, aka 'Arry Driftwood (photo by Don Hartley, c/- AFLOAT Publications)

Among the number was ‘Arry Driftwood, who wrote a monthly column for Afloat magazine. His real name was Henry Adam, aged two days short of his 81st birthday. It was his practice to stand up while steering his outboard-driven dinghy – not one that I would ever recommend. While travelling between the marina and his yacht, Driftwood, he fell into the water and drowned.

Robin Copeland’s July 2011 column gives a warm picture of ‘Arry’s colourful life.

‘Arry’s final column, reflecting on the death of a fellow waterman, includes this pertinent quote that you “need to never let up on your vigilance or you will swiftly become LATE”.

Sudden and unexpected immersion in cold water is, literally, breath-taking. An article, The Truth About Cold Water, on the gCaptain website tells how the body shuts down very quickly as hypothermia sets in.

So, please take care on the water.

Bill Ford, legendary stalwart of RANSA

June 21st, 2011
Bill Ford

Bill Ford

We don’t usually use personal experiences in our newsletters unless they have to do with the sea and safety. This time we want to make an exception and tell you about a truly exceptional day – last Sunday.

Annie and I and about 50 other people were at our yacht club, RANSA – Royal Australian Naval Sailing Association – at Rushcutter’s Bay in Sydney. We were all there to celebrate the 95th birthday of a legendary stalwart of the club, Bill Ford. Bill, born in England, was a chippy in the Royal Navy before and during WWII. After the war he came to Australia.

During his long membership of RANSA he held the position of Rear Commodore for so many years that eventually he was made Honorary Life Rear Commodore. It is impossible to describe how much he meant to the club and how much the club meant to him.

When we arrived Bill wasn’t there and we heard a bit later that he had been unwell the previous day and because of that, he wouldn’t be coming to the party. He’d really been looking forward to seeing all his old friends, who he knew would be gathered to see him. It was a shame that he couldn’t because it was an absolutely magical Sydney winter’s day, the sort that is a jewel in the memory. Cloudless sky, a little warmth in the sun glistening on the harbour and a sharp breeze for the yachts of the neighbouring club during their winter races.

A little later as we were sitting down having our celebratory lunch, we learned that Bill had died. It was an amazing feeling that all the people who loved him and that he loved were there gathered when it happened. Fortunately his son and daughter had been urged to leave the party and were with him when he died.

Needless to say, we all spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening reminiscing.

At sunset, by the water’s edge, a very moving ceremony was performed, led by a former Commodore, Max Kean. The flag, which had been at half-mast, was raised to the truck then lowered by Bill’s son-in-law. One of our members then recited “Lest We Forget”. 

Sad as it is, Bill was fortunate to suffer no longer.

An interview with Bill Ford that was published in the RANSA Sep 2008 Newsletter will tell you more about this wonderful man.

In their own words: Bill Ford

In the RANSA newsletter interview Bill was asked:
“Any advice for the younger sailing generation?”

His response:

Start sailing as early in life as you can. It’s a sport for all ages and not over physical. Be competitive but don’t overdo it. The water is there for all to enjoy and sailors are generally good sports and make great friends.

(Photo courtesy RANSA website.)

Couples on the water

May 23rd, 2011

Sailing downwindIf you’re an experienced sailor and you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t know, but wants to learn, the ropes, your best option is to book them in to a series of courses at a sailing school. Why? Because there will be fewer disagreements on your boat and they will not pick up your bad habits!

If you need help in selecting such a course, you may want to read my article, How to Find a Good Sailing School – 10 Questions You Should Ask 

If you plan to take off on an extended cruise, you really need to be sure that your other half has received sound training and, hopefully, picked up some qualifications along the way.

For example, when navigating a passage. If your partner becomes skilled on the helm, you will be able to go below and check the charts, update your position and make any corrections to the course, knowing that the boat is in safe hands.

The level of skills you should share also depends on whether you carry crew. If there are just the two of you, the ideal is for you to have equal skills, particularly if you plan on ocean travel.

So, the basic rule should be, the fewer of you and the further you go, the more you need to know.

No one would want to be left in tragic circumstances in the middle of an ocean without the ability to get home alone.

Got something you’d like to add? Please leave a comment, below.